EU agrees to Putin's call for gas security talks after 'warning'

"We believe that this approach allows for the most useful process with the Russian Federation and other third parties," European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said

EU agrees to Putin's call for gas security talks after 'warning'

World Bulletin/News Desk

 The European Union told Russian President Vladimir Putin it is willing to hold talks with Moscow and Kiev on gas security as the bloc scrambles to defuse a deep political crisis over Russia's annexation of Crimea.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, replying to a letter Putin sent last week to 18 EU countries, accepted Putin's proposal for three-way talks.

"The European Union agrees on your proposal for consultations with the Russian Federation and Ukraine with regard to security of gas supply and transit," Barroso said in his reply, released by the European Commission on Thursday.

The EU has voiced outrage over Moscow's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region and is extremely nervous about the energy implications of the conflict as Ukraine is a major transit route for Russian gas.

Russia provides Europe with roughly one third of its gas imports, some 40 percent of which flow via Ukraine. Russia also provides Ukraine with around half of its domestic gas needs.

Putin said Russia had been assisting Ukraine with cut-price gas for years and blamed Ukraine's economic and political crisis on the EU.

Barroso hit back at that criticism and said the European Union, as part of an International Monetary Fund aid package, was already providing support to Ukraine. Ukraine's gas debts and import prices should be considered as part of that, he said.

Barroso reiterated his call on Russia to respect contractual commitments on gas supplies.

"I would like to recall that supply contracts are between European companies and Gazprom. It therefore continues to be Gazprom's responsibility to ensure the deliveries of the required volumes as agreed in the supply contracts," he wrote.

Barroso reminded Russia it had a duty to warn Europe before taking "any unilateral steps" in a reference to an early warning system set up between the EU and Russia in response to previous gas supply crises due to price spats between Russia and Ukraine.

"Not possible to stop buying Russian gas"

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday it would not be possible for Europe, which is trying to cut its reliance on Russian energy, to completely stop buying Russian gas.

Putin also said that the transit via Ukraine is the most dangerous element in Europe's gas supply system, and that he was hopeful a deal could be reached with Ukraine on gas supplies.

Russia meets around 30 percent of Europe's natural gas needs. Moscow's actions in Ukraine have spurred attempts by the continent to reduce its dependency on oil and gas supplies from the former Cold War foe.

"Of course, everyone is taking care about supply diversification. There, in Europe, they talk about increasing independence from the Russian supplier," said Putin.

"It's just like we begin to talk and take action towards independence from our consumers," he added. Russia has made efforts to forge closer ties with Asia.

Reuters calculations suggest Europe's efforts could slash imports from Russia by around 45 billion cubic metres (bcm) by 2020, worth $18 billion a year, equivalent to a quarter of what Russia currently supplies.

"We sell gas in European countries which have around 30-35 percent of their gas balance covered by supplies from Russia. Can they stop buying Russian gas? In my opinion it is impossible," he said during an hours-long televised question and answer session.

Putin warned EU leaders a week ago that Russia would cut natural gas supplies to Ukraine if it did not pay its bills and said this could lead to a reduction of onward deliveries to Europe.

Last Mod: 17 Nisan 2014, 16:15
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